Q: We are curious about how you strike a balance between your artistic side and your work as a software engineer. Does one influence the other or is one a release from the other?
A: When I first began on my artistic path, art represented my connection to “the genuine world.” Although art was a source of solace for me, it wasn’t a release per se—more as a touchstone to the real world. I see now that that was a rather monochromatic view of the world and my creative space. Now I see these two major creative forces in my life as flowing from the same source. Software is creative in a verbal and functional way—my pastels speak to something much less tangible. Visual creativity doesn’t quite capture my creative process, there’s so much going on simultaneously—emotion, illusion, symbol. I believe software & pastels have had tremendous influence on each other—through me—in ways I will never get my work colleagues or my arty friends to quite understand (or believe, even). Yet the cross-currents are most definitely there. I think the highest praise I could ever receive would be “Delfino lives a creative life” as that is my goal.
Q: Mike, our Art Director, sees an Edward Hopper influence in some of your work. Is he one of your influences? If not, who is?
A: I love how Hopper’s works capture the gold in California’s light. I’ve long admired Raoul Dufy and Georgia O’Keefe. They more than any others have shaped the way I approach landscapes & still life respectively. I love the worlds-within-worlds that O’Keefe brings to her flowers. I think she delighted in bringing her viewers so very deeply into the interiors of her flowers, she showed the world the eroticism of simple flowers. Flowers were my first love for pastels—this piece “Irises for Anthea” was one of my first. They still call to me.
"Irises for Anthea" ~ Copyright 2004 ~ Delfino Cornali
Now I am discovering the work of the pastel artist Odilon Redon—his simple still life pieces blow me away.
Q: Can you elaborate on your creative process? How do your images originate?
A: I don’t know if I have one creative process. I often work directly from a photograph—printing the image directly onto watercolor stock or a canvas-rag paper, and apply pastels directly over the image. When I work this way, painting becomes more of an evolutionary process than the “normal” create-from-nothing process. Instead of rendering, my role becomes one of shifting an image, its contrasts, color palette, etc. What emerges is a synthesis of the camera’s rendering and my own, although as the artist I get to control the extent to which the underlying image appears in the final work. In some pieces like “91st Street Roses” the original image is completely obliterated. The original image was just an evolutionary stepping stone. I think of the original image like a builder’s chalk line—an interesting artifact of the building process, not part of the finished work.
"91st Street Roses" ~ Copyright 2007 ~ Delfino Cornali
I work a lot with nature and natural forms—vegetables, flowers, the living fractal shapes of landscapes. I think the human mind is hard-wired (after ten million generations) to interpret immediately the natural world. Yet for all the “advances” of our modern society, I fear our culture is busying itself to forget its connection to the natural world. Re-creating natural forms and returning them to our cultural attention is a major focus of my work.
I think I have a completely different creative process when I do abstract pieces. I try to get out of the way, to let the images flow from wherever they flow from, and not try too hard to control the evolution. “Sunbather” evolved this way, where I only took on smaller tasks rather than attempting to guide and control the larger vision of the piece. Surrendering control—and having faith that all will be “okay”— is an important exercise for artists, and for me as a human being.
"Sunbather" ~ Copyright 2009 ~ Delfino Cornali
Q: A lot of your artwork appears to have origins from other countries. Is there a particular part of the world that seems to inspire your work more than another?
A: Travel has been an important part of my life for many years. I did a three-year around the world trip back in the 1990s—working on farms, family home-stays, bicycling through New Zealand, riding buses through Latin America, and writing as my media for recording the journey. Travel sharpened my sense of observation, and I think observation is THE motivation & reward of travel for me. It’s our opportunity to pause and really comprehend what’s before you. In that respect, travel is just the opposite of the Western Science that says instruments don’t change, they only record. With travel, we become the instrument, and we WANT the instrument itself to change—that’s the goal.
The Mediterranean speaks to me at such a core level, to my ancestral roots. It’s where I truly feel “at home.” The light in Greece and Italy never fails to astound me; it forces me to observe and renews my sense of wonder. Yes, much of my work derives from photos from my travels. I’m planning a five-week trip to Croatia this summer-fall, where I’m planning to do more with seascapes in plein air.
Q: Where do you see your work going in the future? New techniques? Any personal projects, shows, books in the works you want to talk about?
A: I began a project earlier this year, an art blog called “One Hundred Paintings to Inspire Your Life” (http://rosewoodart.wordpress.com/). Here I’m reviewing the pastel pieces I’ve created over the past six years and exploring how they speak to me now (rather than dwelling on what I was trying to do, art techniques, etc.)
"On The Andaman" ~ Copyright 2008 ~ Delfino Cornali
I’m working these days with some interesting techniques and materials—underlay of watercolors beneath pastels, sandpaper, canvas with sun-softened oil pastels (like the seascape in “On The Andaman”) My travel to Croatia will give me a chance to gain more experience working plein air, seascapes and doing architectural forms. I plan to assemble a show here in Seattle the following year based on the body of work that emerges. We’ll see how that progresses, and I’ll keep HarmonyWishes in mind to show some of my latest works.